The UK Supreme Court ruled today that the UK government must
hold a parliamentary vote before triggering Article 50 to leave the
European Union. The ruling confirmed the November 2016 decision of
the UK High Court.
The prime minister confirmed last week that the UK will leave
the single market (a "hard Brexit") and will begin the
Brexit process by the end of March 2017. The immediate implication
of the Supreme Court judgment is that approval from both houses of
parliament (in the form of a "bill") will be required
before the process begins. There is a question whether either house
of parliament will vote against the bill – given the
referendum result, this is unlikely to be the case. It is also
likely that the bill will be short and seek simply to approve the
Article 50 notice.
However, it is likely that opposing voices in both houses of
parliament will seek to delay the bill or widen the debate to
encompass any of the numerous issues that arise from Brexit,
including the government's opening negotiation points. The main
opposition party (Labour) has already confirmed that it will look
to amend the Article 50 bill to counter any movement towards the UK
withdrawing from full single market access or altering its tax
Looking forward, the judgment has confirmed the limitation of
the government's powers in relation to leaving the European
Union, ensuring a high level of debate in parliament at every step
of the process. Further acts of parliament will be needed to
enshrine the new arrangement with the EU, although their form and
the likelihood of parliament devolving post-Brexit rule making
powers on other UK institutions is largely unknown. It is also
likely that this ruling will not be the end of Brexit legal action
from interested parties.
As a win for the government, the Court did not grant any power
to the national assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
to intervene on the decision to trigger Article 50.
The full judgment and a press summary are available here.
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